Perspectives: In search of hope in Goromonzi North

As tradition prescribes, we are all going to be told that by the end of the 2023-2024 budgeting season, our lives will edge a few more inches towards prosperity.

It’s now the season for budget consultations and budget meetings are taking place everywhere around the country.

And people from government seem to be under one obsession; how to get the fiscus to establish prosperity in everyone’s life.

As tradition prescribes, we are all going to be told that by the end of the 2023-2024 budgeting season, our lives will edge a few more inches towards prosperity.

But of course it has always been everyone’s prayer the word ‘prosperity’ finds a new meaning in Zimbabwe, beyond simple GDP calculations.

‘In search of hope’ draws inspiration from a ‘National Pulse Report’ based on a countrywide 2022/23 study ‘Environmental Impact of Zimbabwe’s Economy’ by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), launched in Harare in March 2023.

Against the background of the ZCC report, and budget consultations currently underway across the country, this article examines experiences of communities in Goromonzi North, Mashonaland East Province, with a regularization program initiated by the Goromonzi Rural District Council.

Launched under the theme ‘Finding Hope in Diversity’ the ZCC study explores political, economic, environmental technological and social dimensions of life for the citizen in Zimbabwe today.

Key observations from the ZCC report are a sense of deepening anxiety and concern among Zimbabweans about lack of jobs and income, growing lack of population access to basic commodities and basic services, and worsening quality of life.

For the majority, informal markets are increasingly the major source of income, followed by subsistence farming.

With agriculture being the predominant source of economic livelihood, this implies a precarious dependence on unpredictable rains, and food insecurity.

The report highlights that 62% of Zimbabweans get their health services outside their wards, and 35% within their wards, meaning people are living far away from health services.

Meaning people have to fork out out-of pocket cash to access health. For 81% of the population health services are poor.

Education is also poor, as it is increasingly unaffordable for 60% of the people. 70% of school dropouts are girls because of the high fees, child pregnancies (rural and urban), child marriages (in rural areas mostly), as well as because of drugs and substance abuse.

At least 87% of Zimbabweans acknowledge the existence of the drugs problem facing especially the youth, and the chief causes of this challenge being unemployment, lack of parental guidance, and recreation.

Quite worrisome is the finding that artisanal miners use drugs as energiser to do their work.

Zimbabweans also point to challenges of political intolerance and impunity, policy inconsistencies, inflation, instability, economic uncertainty, human pain and suffering.

In terms of the ZCC report, 86% of the population feel the economic environment is poor, corruption is endemic, and that there is a fall in the level of trust in public institutions.

Welcome to Goromonzi North

From July 11 to 25, 2022 Goromonzi Rural District Council (GRDC) made an unscheduled visit to Chinyika, Goromonzi, to initiate a ‘regularisation programme’, targeting nine villages in Chinyika communal lands; Yafele, Musonza, Muchemwa, Tafirenyika, Mudzudzu, Tapfumaneyi, Nemhara, Takadini, and Ngazimbi. In the wake of the Goromonzi regularisation program, local Nyikandeyedu and Simukai Residents Trusts embarked on a study of affected villages to assess reactions of residents to the programme.

The 72 respondents covered in the survey were 48 (67%) male and 24, (33%) female.

These 72 also represented 18% of 400 individuals reportedly covered in the entire GRDC regularisation exercise.

The survey was based on signed forms submitted voluntarily by individuals, as well as on verbal responses to questions about age, and socio-economic background.

According to correspondence (in the form of an unreferenced government letter) brought by GRDC officials, the goal of the program was to regularise illegal settlements. Illegal land occupants, being lawbreakers, were fined US$1500 payable in three months, and this inspite of their socio -economic status, or age.

Quite confusing though especially that the President’s Office had on numerous occasions confirmed that Zimbabwe’s preferred currency, especially for government business, was the Zimbabwe dollar, and certainly not the United States dollar. Meaning that GRDC are most unlikely to keep US dollar receipt books. The officials from GRDC came in the company of the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

In their responses, residents noted that while they appreciated the duties and responsibilities of council, they were still entitled to explanation about this ‘regularisation’.

Their failure to understand this concept resulted in their confusion.

Communities were demanding that the program be suspended till issues of program definition were sorted.

Failure of council officials to also engage first with local chiefs undermined the programme, as it fuelled confusion, suspicion, animosity, hostility and resistance against council programs among local communities.

At the end, in subsequent meetings and discussions with local traditional leaders, the impression was created by council officials that ‘regularisation’ was a directive from central government, targeting areas that were to be ‘urbanised’, with the lateral expansion of Harare.

Still nevertheless, the activities of council set a bad precedent.

Where the general expectation in development communication embraces community friendly approaches underpinned by inclusiveness, negotiation and confidence building, the deployment of police details to accompany council officials implied that council anticipated confrontation, aggression and violence, and not peace.

This turn of events explains why local communities are demanding to see the Goromonzi master plan, reportedly drawn up decades ago but secretively kept away from the scrutiny of residents.

The regularisation initiative discriminated against people originating from outside Goromonzi, but who now live in the district.

Yet not only is the council itself the first culprit in attracting people from other districts for its ‘township’ programme.

Many homeowners targeted by the GRDC as illegal land occupants had been paying rentals in terms of the law, many still yet are unemployed, beyond pensionable age, taking care of dependants, with some on Social Welfare, and more living below the poverty datum line.

Residents in Yafele village still believe their issues with council need to be brought to a proper closure as in 2019 GRDC accepted they had erred when they just came and seized farming lands without due notification.

As a result of this lack of security and uncertainty, rural inhabitants cannot confidently build their homes or invest their hard-earned savings in boreholes or electricity projects.

Quite ironically though, on October 5 2023 council descended on the same traumatised communities seeking their approval for the 2024 GRDC budget!!

Looking ahead

There is need for

  • Adequate legislative, institutional and policy mechanisms to protect all residents, including the poor and vulnerable. Appropriate regulatory institutional and policy frameworks are a cog in the wheels of democratic governance, and the rule of law;
  • Educational and public awareness campaigns on constitutional rights and policy privileges, targeting in particular municipalities, councils, traditional leaders, and rural communities;
  • Participatory and inclusive local governance, gender equality, balanced territorial development, environmental sustainability, resilience to climate change;
  • Prioritisation of regularisation of existing rural land holdings for conversion into urban residential plots;
  • Deepening mutual trust between councils, communities and residents;
  • Approaches that facilitate integration of rural residents into local authority programs with their minimum social disruption, with land being preserved for those with traditional entitlements, and existing settlers or homeowners being allowed to own their own plots of land;
  • Provision of housing and prevention of slums;
  • Guaranteed urban population access to basic local services, in addition to security of land tenure;
  • Approaches that minimise land losses, relocations/ displacements of rural communities and disruptions of livelihoods. By prioritising traditional land rights to existing settlers local communities are empowered to invest in the development of their homes and in the land);
  • Compensation to be granted where land had been taken away by Goromonzi Rural District Council;
  • Definition of stakeholder responsibilities in regularisation.


*Manyanya is a policy analyst and a resident of Goromonzi North in Mashonaland East.

These weekly articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, managing consultant of Zawale Consultant (Private) Limited, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe

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